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The contribution of the early caliphates to Islamic scholarship are innumerable. Examples include:

  • After the death of the Messenger (saw), Caliphs Abu Bakr and then Uthman ordered for the compilation of the Qur'an, which is now known as the Uthmani copy.
  • Tradition suggests the Caliph al-Mansur (d. 158/775) was the one who first recognised the need for Muslims to have a documented biographical account for the Messenger. At the Caliph’s behest, Ibn Ishaq (d. 150/767) wrote his two-part compilation comprising Mab'ath and Maghazi that recollected the Messenger's birth, prophethood, call and struggles. Ibn Ishaq laid his works out in a chronological sequence to provide a narrative of the Messenger's life situated in his 7th century context. He incorporated both the oral traditions, hadith literature as well as Qur’anic citations and poetry that reflected the tribal environment. Al-Waqidi followed his approach in Kitab al-Maghazi maintaining the broad narrative outline provided by Ibn Ishaq.
  • Among the most vital sources of our information on the late antique and early Islamic Middle East are the works of the Muslim historian Ahmad bin Yahya al-Baladhuri (d. ca. 892 CE/AH 279), written in Arabic at the court of the Abbasid caliphs. His two extant works comprising Kitab Futuh al-Buldan (The Book of the Conquest of Lands) and Ansab al-Ashraf (The Lineage of Nobles). Both are treasure troves of information on the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries CE, on early Islamic society, and on the formation and development of governance under Islamic rule. Both texts have played a crucial role in the modern reconstruction of the early Islamic period.
  • Ibn Saad's Al-Tabaqat notes the formal codification of hadith was ordered by the governor of Egypt Abd al-Aziz bin Marwan (d. 285 H).

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, said in a speech:

“There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.
It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.

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